Wedding Traditions: Here’s To You

Ten tips on how to propose a memorable wedding toast.



Adobe Stock © Jacob Lund

When Theresa Nosacek married Tim Derse in Milwaukee last May, she asked her 15-year-old niece to give a toast. Proudly, Cleo Neuman stood before 150 guests and said: “I’d like to welcome Tim and his family into our family. You’re all just weird enough to fit in!”

The toast “brought the house down,” recalls Cynthia Jones-Nosacek, mother of the bride. “Cleo is usually shy and quiet, so it was unexpected and quite touching.”

A wedding toast can be funny, poignant and sentimental. Just don’t embarrass yourself or anyone else in the process, suggests Katelyn Stanis, a wedding vows and speech writer and founder of Wedding Words (weddingwords.us), a company that will help you express your emotions.

Making a toast “is both an honor and a responsibility,” so don’t take it lightly, she says. “You can use those two minutes to say something generic or share an inside joke that few people will get, or really dig deep into what makes your relationship special. It’s an opportunity to tell the bride and groom why they are important to you and what you wish for them in the future.”

It’s natural to have public speaking anxiety at such a big moment, Stanis notes. “Don’t focus on the fact that there are 180 eyeballs looking at you; focus on the one person you wrote the speech for.”

If you do it right, it will be memorable, she says. “Even if the couple doesn’t remember a word of it, the emotion you get across is key.” And thanks to social media, “the stakes are even higher to show that wow factor since your words will live online forever.”

That’s why you should practice, so you’re comfortable and prepared, suggests Jodi Smith, an etiquette expert and president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting (mannersmith.com). Here are her 10 tips for a memorable wedding toast:

  • Be Prepared. Decide who is toasting, in which order, and what you will say well in advance of the wedding.
  • Be Sincere. Use your own words and speak from the heart. This will be easier for you to remember and mean more to the couple than a toast borrowed from a book.
  • Be Brief. Keep the toast to two to three minutes tops.
  • Be Tactful. The groom’s broken heart from an old girlfriend, the bride’s nose job, first marriages, what happened during the bachelor/bachelorette party—all should be off limits at the wedding.
  • Be Complimentary. After all, the whole purpose of a toast is to say something nice about the people being honored.
  • Be Practiced. Review what you want to say in front of a mirror, without your notes. (Remember that if you are holding a glass in one hand and the microphone in the other, you would need another arm to read from your notes.)
  • Be Clearheaded. Nerves and memory are not aided by alcohol. Avoid spirits until after you have successfully delivered your toast.
  • Be Mannerly. Sip your champagne. Wedding toasts are not a chug-a-lug contest. Your glass should not need to be refilled after each toast. Also, clinking should be done with care. Unlike beer mugs, crystal is delicate.
  • Be Connected. Look at the couple and the guests while speaking slowly and clearly.
  • Be Charming. Remember to raise your glass during the toast and sip from your glass at the end of the toast.
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